Solvang City Council members continued to push Monday for Santa Barbara County to rectify a proposed law enforcement budget, reverse charges for the past billing cycle, and act more transparently through the dispute resolution process that's underway.

Council members voted 4-0, with Mayor Charlie Uhrig recusing himself, to join Buellton, Carpinteria and Goleta in a joint letter allowing Sheriff Bill Brown to extend dispute resolution for 45 days “to attempt to resolve the city’s dispute of law enforcement services contract as proposed by Santa Barbara County,” City Manager Xenia Bradford said.

On Jan. 14, the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office presented its proposed 2021-22 contract for law enforcement services with a 37 percent increase, bringing the cost to $2.5 million from the current agreement for $1.7 million. Bradford said the increase, introduced midway through the four-year contract cycle, resulted from a change in methodology from budgeted agreements to actual costs and true-up costs over the past two years.

Law enforcement accounts for 25% of the city’s discretionary fund expenditures, Bradford said.

In February, the four cities penned a joint letter expressing their surprise, dismay and concern over the increases which they said far exceeded affordability.

The four cities issued contracts of dispute which calls for a 30-day dispute resolution period which would have expired March 14, but on March 4, Brown submitted a request to extend dispute resolution another 45 days.

Bradford said contract cities have been working collaboratively on the budgeting issue, and are in discussion with the Sheriff’s Office, county auditor/controller and county executive officer, some of whom have expressed “concerns about the budget and the disproportional share the cities pay,” Bradford said.

In their latest letter, cities asked specifically for the Sheriff’s Office to acknowledge the increase of billed hours outside contract hours, reverse charges, and eliminate those hours from the 2021-22 calculation.

Bradford said the Sheriff’s Office has been providing supporting documents as requested.

“The cities have also agreed to hire a mutual financial review contractor to work for all four of the cities independently to review the models,” she said.

In its letter, Solvang added a request that the county commit to a collaborative and transparent process in future billing and in the true-up costs.

In other action, the council unanimously approved a $24 annual increased assessment to residents of the Solvang Mesa (Skytt Mesa) Landscape & Lighting Maintenance District. No members of the public spoke out during the public hearing held prior to the vote. The increase, from $1,227 annually to $1,296 annually, were “based on some cost increases that have occurred and in an effort to maintain the LLMD reserve at the proper level,” said Public Works Director/City Engineer Matt Van Der Linden.

The council also recognized several city employees for their years of service including: Parks & Recreation Director Fred Lageman (24 years); Wastewater Plant Supervisor Nathan Giacinto (20 years); Water Supervisor Mike Matthews (15); Wastewater Lead Operator Paul Matsukas (15); George Garcia, maintenance (15); Senior Records Coordinator Jenny McClurg (10); Accounting Assistant Debbie Curtis (10); Wastewater Treatment Operator II Trevor Holley (10); Public Works Director/City Engineer Matt Van Der Linden (10); Operator II Nick Rivera (5); Utility Billing Clerk Kristin Rubin (5); Water Operator II James Petersen (5); Water Operator II Keith Cote (5); and Water Operator I Frank Pacheco (5).

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